If like us, you read all the specs on a piece of gear before you buy it, you may have noticed a new, space-age sounding vocabulary word pop up lately: graphene. The material, which is made of a single layer of carbon atoms that are linked hexagonally, is hailed by product designers and engineers for its strength (it’s 200 times stronger than steel, by weight), lightness and ability to conduct heat and electricity. It’s been around since 2004 but is only recently getting a big push by makers of outdoor gear; Inov-8 uses it in running shoes and hiking footwear, Head uses it in skis and tennis rackets, Vittoria uses it in bike tires and Billabong plans to release a line of graphene-enhanced surf wetsuits later this year. The world of mountain climbing, an activity that often serves as a driver for innovation, is also getting a dose of the stuff in Bight Gear’s new Solstice Graphene Hoody.
The Solstice itself isn’t new — it was one of Bight’s flagship products when it launched two years ago under the name MtnLogic — but the latest graphene-enhanced version is. Bight’s reasons for adding the new ingredient including odor reduction and increased heat transfer (cooling you down when you’re hot, and keeping you warm when you’re cold). There’s also a durability gain — I tested the original Solstice, which was made of a blend of merino wool and polyester, during a climb of Mount Rainier and returned with an extra, unwanted thumb hole.
Bight was founded by Peter Whittaker because, as a lifelong mountaineer and guide, he believed that he could make the best gear. The company’s team of working mountain guides test every new product by using it on climbs of mountains like Aconcagua and Denali. Each piece sees a minimum of 100,000 cumulative vertical feet of use before it gets added to the line, including the Solstice Graphene Hoody. It just went on sale this week, and our hopes for it are as high as some of those mountains.
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